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Take a Knee: Hawaii Series Recap

As we explained in our series preview on Thursday, the University of Hawaii is a hitting-focused club with the stats to prove it. Although GU's pitchers had three strong outings and the lineup produced 14 runs, they still dropped two of the three-game set to the Warriors this weekend. By all accounts, the Zags (11-15) and Warriors looked like two teams on equal footing heading in; it was closer than most people would have ventured to guess: Gonzaga lost their pair by two runs or less, and secured their win without an insurance run. 

Friday's contest was a true pitcher's duel, and unfortunately Cody Martin was on the losing end of a 3-1 loss. He threw a stellar six innings, produced 10 strikeouts and allowed only three hits. He did, however, surrender two runs (they reached base on walks, of which he threw four). All told, it was one of his best outings of the season, considering it was one of the toughest lineups he's faced. But UH ace Josh Slaats (who entered with a stunning 1.29 ERA), one of the nation's top prospects (he just picked up another conference POY honor, his third), was just good enough to push his team over the top: 10 Ks, one walk, and one hit in seven scoreless frames.

That's not to say that the Dogs didn't hit; they did, they hit plenty. In fact, they hit Warrior reliever Lenny Linsky into the ground: in his two complete innings, he gave up seven hits, yet only allowed one run. Overall, Gonzaga compiled eight hits while Hawaii only finished with five.  How did GU lose, then? Errors and bum luck. Errors: Three UH runners reached base on errors who otherwise wouldn't have gotten on...they eventually scored. Bum luck: the rain interfered on multiple occasions to assist Hawaii (bases loaded wild pitch, losing fly balls in the lights reflected in the rain, etc).

Cody threw a fantastic game; anybody in attendance (or who read the box score) could plainly see that. Watching him this year, it's clear that he's an extremely talented pitcher who's suffering from Matt Cain syndrome. For those of you who don't know Cain, he's the best pitcher you've never heard of (w/ the SF Giants); his stuff is unbelievable... if he got run support, he would contend to start the All-Star game. Simply put, this was another example of the Zags not producing key hits when it counted and basically leaving the pitcher to fend for himself: the one major team problem that's plagued them this season. Again, they were facing one of America's best pitchers, but the fact that they got eight hits to Hawaii's five really isn't acceptable by Machtolf's standards, and from what I understand, they got a talking-to after the game. 

Anyway, onto Saturday. Another close one: this time we picked up a W, 7-6. Carpenter took the hill for GU and threw well (five innings, four hits, two runs and seven strikeouts). But the other Bulldog pitchers were more telling: we used six different hurlers in nine innings. Luckily enough, our hitters put on a clinic! Heid produced three hits, while Castellitto, Eslick, and Hunter all contributed two apiece. The Warriors surged in the home half of the ninth, getting their squad within a run, but the Zags executed a clutch 6-3 double play to secure the win. Reliever Mark Phillips was blessed to get out of that jam: it was 7-3 when he entered and left with a save, despite sacrificing three runs.

On the Easter finale, the Bulldogs were on the opposite end of Saturday's story. Gonzaga put up a fight in the eighth and ninth, nearly tying up the game, but UH brought in closer Jesse Moore with two outs and a runner on second to put the game away with a big-time K. The Warriors were actually behind heading into the eighth, but they posted five runs and held on to win and take the last game.

A tough series against a similar team will show flaws better than a much better or worse team; it reveals what you need to work on more realistically. Based on this weekend series, the Bulldogs need to tighten up the screws on defense and be willing to play small ball to bring crucial runs across the plate. Our pitchers just need to keep doing what they're doing, and if we keep hitting the ball, much-needed hits will eventually fall.

Check in tomorrow for a preview of the two-game set vs. UDub!